Our history and track record highlight our deep expertise and strong fundamentals, with thoughtful, strategic expansion creating cross-platform synergies for our investors.
In 1997, Ares was founded by a veteran team of investment professionals to pursue investment activities in leveraged loans, high yield bonds, private debt, private equity and other types of investments. After becoming an independent firm in 2002, the Firm raised its first dedicated private equity and private debt funds in 2003 and 2004, respectively. The development of our Private Equity and Credit Groups significantly benefited from our senior professionals' deep middle market experience and the reputation of our Credit Group in the investment community.
In 2004, Ares created a specialty finance company, Ares Capital Corporation ("ARCC") for corporate lending activities (NASDAQ: ARCC), which is now the largest business development company by market capitalization and total assets. ARCC further enhanced its leadership position in U.S. middle market direct lending with the strategic acquisition of American Capital, Ltd. in January 2017.
Our European direct lending business has also continued to grow. We closed ACE III, our third European direct lending fund, in June 2016 at its hard cap of €2.5 billion, above its initial target of €2.0 billion.
From 2007-2009, Ares significantly expanded, investing heavily in back office infrastructure, seeding new investment products and entering Europe with capital markets and private debt investing activities. In 2010, ARCC acquired Allied Capital, creating the largest business development company by market capitalization. Our Private Equity Group expanded into Asia in 2010 with the launch of its first China growth fund. Ares continued its regional expansion and product diversification in 2011 with the strategic additions of Indicus Advisors, a top tier investment manager in European leveraged finance and global asset-backed credit, and Wrightwood, a lender to the U.S. commercial real estate sector.
In 2012, Ares Real Estate Group formed a specialty finance company, Ares Commercial Real Estate Corporation (NYSE:ACRE). ACRE is a real estate investment trust (REIT) that provides one-stop solutions designed to meet the distinct and underserved financing needs of middle-market commercial real estate. Ares further enhanced its Real Estate Group in 2013 with the strategic acquisition of AREA Property Partners, L.P. ("AREA"), a top-tier real estate investment management firm with a 20-year track record and 50 investment professionals in the U.S. and Europe.
In recent years, we have expanded into new and adjacent products, as well as continued to grow our core offerings and infrastructure.
Ares became a publicly traded partnership in May 2014. Its common shares trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol "ARES."
Ares expanded into commercial finance and asset-based lending through the acquisition of Keltic Financial Services LLC and Keltic Financial Partners II, LP in June 2014. In addition, an Ares fund acquired the asset-based lending portfolio of First Capital Holdings, Inc. in 2015, adding additional asset based lending capabilities.
Ares expanded its Private Equity Group in January 2015 through a subsidiary's strategic acquisition of Energy Investors Funds (“EIF”), a leading asset manager in the U.S. power and energy industry. Ares EIF focuses on identifying long-term, stable cash-flowing investments in the power generation, transmission and midstream sectors. We closed ACOF V, our fifth global flexible capital private equity fund, in April 2016 at its hard cap of $7.85 billion of total commitments, compared to ACOF IV at $4.7 billion.